The house is still winning, but another golfer punched a ticket to Las Vegas on Saturday.
In its ninth year, the Million Dollar Hole-in-One Shootout at Old South Golf Links again denied the top prize. James Bristol, a retired Marine Corps sergeant major and Charlotte resident, came closest. His shot to within 11 feet earned him $1,000 and a trip to Sin City.
A hole-in-one would have paid $1 million and a BMW hard-top covertible.
"My heart was racing; I was nervous," Bristol said. "I just swung the club, and it went straight."
Bristol, 51, is living at Old South while attending Professional Golfers Career College in Bluffton. He started May 1. Since then, he has played Old South twice and taken his first golf lesson.
He held a thought from that lesson when he fired a 6-iron into the wind from 167 yards to a back pin. His ball flirted with the hole before stopping 10 feet, 10 inches away.
"I didn't win a million, but I won a grand," Bristol yelled to his classmates as he walked from the fairway.
Twenty-eight golfers qualified for Saturday's final, with qualifying starting Wednesday. During qualifying, targets were placed only 115-130 yards away.
But the challengers found Saturday's conditions more difficult. The wind picked up, the pin was cut in the back-middle of the green and water lurked to the right.
Many players were forced to use hybrids and long irons. One hit driver.
The first several competitors launched shots deep right into the woods or found the water right. The first measurable shot rested 60 feet away.
But efforts improved and the five prize-winners each hit shots within 30 feet. The consolation prizes included free rounds for four at some of the area's top golf courses.
Bristol's shot was the only one to stay on line and reach the back tier.
"My 6-iron is a pretty straight club, usually," Bristol said. "It's a tough pin. The 6-iron helped."
If the logistics work out for his trip, it won't be the first time he's been to Vegas.
While a Marine stationed as a recruiter in Phoenix, Bristol was assigned Las Vegas as part of the area he was to cover. He traveled to the city every other month for almost four years.
It was in the Marines where Bristol learned to play golf, joining his unit in playing intramural tournaments against others. After 30 years, he retired to Charlotte, where he maintains a residence while attending the two-year golf program in Bluffton.
Touchstone Energy Million Dollar Hole-in-One Shootout
Saturday, at Old South Golf Links
Prize winners, distance
James Bristol, 10-10 1/2
Kevin King, 19-1 1/2
Jon Piccione, 23-2
Van Jeffords, 27-11
Ted Morris, 30-4